Julian Alaphilippe is the first Soudal Quick-Step rider to come home on the opening day.
After 31 years, Le Tour returned to the Basque Country for the Grand Départ, only this time it’s Bilbao who gets to host the start of the world’s biggest race. Founded by Diego Lopez V de Haro more than seven centuries ago and for a long time known as a port and industrial city, Bilbao has experienced a fantastic revival and metamorphosis since the end of the ‘80s which transformed it into one the continent’s best cities.
It’s also a city inextricably linked to the sport, having featured in Itzulia and La Vuelta dozens of times – including at the 2019 edition of the season’s final Grand Tour, when Philippe Gilbert took the victory for our team from the breakaway – and this could be seen maybe more than ever Saturday afternoon, as thousands and thousands of people lined up the streets to greet the peloton.
Featuring five classified climbs, the 182km stage came down to the last of these. Pike, which many riders already knew from the Circuito de Getxo, was more than a climb, it was a brutal wall, averaging 10% over just two kilometers, but featuring some insanely brutal 15% gradients just before the top. Going into this hill, Julian Alaphilippe was well placed thanks to a great job of his teammates, but once the GC favourites came to the fore and pushed the pedal hard, he found himself among those distanced, eventually concluding the day around half a minute behind Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), who took the win.
“I’m a bit disappointed I couldn’t follow the pace of the guys in the front. I fought hard to stay in a good position before the start of the last climb, as I knew how important that was. But then there are no excuses. I felt immediately how hard it would have been to keep the speed all the way to the top. The dream of wearing the first yellow jersey is gone, but the race is still long and I remain confident that there will be more chances to go for a stage win. The important thing is to recover and see what I can do on Sunday”, Julian said after the stage.
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